Secrets, Books and Murder

Part 2

Suisan R.

 

Cascade, WA

Mid-morning, 10 January

 

Blair stood up, stretching until his back popped, then began gathering his notes for the class he had to sit in on. The University had been nice enough after the debacle with his Ph.D. Thesis, even going so far as to let him retain his little office. After all, he and several other grad students had pointed out to the University that he hadn't turned his thesis in, it had basically been stolen from him. They had reluctantly agreed, allowed him to turn in his 'real' thesis, on the closed society of law enforcement as seen from the inside, and allowed him back into the program. He just wasn't allowed to teach, yet.

Professor Collins had hinted earlier today that that might be changing when they had met for coffee in the Student Union's coffee shop. For now, he'd have to sit in and review other Teaching Fellows as they conducted their classes. Normally, he would be looking forward to such an assignment, but the class he had to sit in on this morning was

Criminal Behavior was a sub class that was recommended, but not required, for students of Psychology; especially the ones considering going on to study Abnormal Behavior. Sighing, he finished gathering his notes, stuffed them into his backpack, and left his office to head over to a small auditorium halfway between Hargrove Hall and the Student Union.

He was just entering the hall when another student bumped into him, causing his backpack to fall off his shoulder and hit the ground.

"Oh! I'm so sorry! I should've been looking where I was going."

Blair picked up the backpack and looked up at his fellow accident victim. Smiling he replied, "That's okay, Amy. No damage."

The girl looked at him, recognizing him. "Oh, Mr. Sandburg, I am SO sorry!"

"Like I said, no problem."

"That is the last time I try to read and walk at the same time!" The girl snapped closed the paperback she had in her hand and placed it on top of the rest of the books she was carrying.

Grinning as he shook his head, Blair led the way up the stairs. "Just try to be a little more aware of your surroundings, next time. I used to do the same thing." He held the door open for her and a few others that were racing to make classes in the building.

"Thank you," Amy said as she squeezed by him. She started walking down the hall, and noticed that he seemed to be keeping pace with her. "So, Mr. Sandburg, what brings you to this neck of the Rainier woods?"

"I have to evaluate a TA that's teaching a class here today. You?"

"Probably taking that class."

"Criminal Behavior?"

"Yeah, that's the one."

They walked for a few more paces, getting closer to the door to the auditorium where the class was to be held. "So, besides being a library assistant, you're studying Psychology?"

Amy smiled, her face lighting up. "No, I'm studying Law. At least for the next year or so."

Blair opened the door for her. "Then what happens?"

"I apply to the Police Academy. You can't even apply until you're 21, so I'm taking as many courses as I can that I think will help me out in the field." She moved past him, heading for a seat near the front of the room, greeting a few friends as she sat down.

He watched her. Amy was only about 5'5" tall, and while not exactly 'skinny' she wasn't built like a Mack truck either. He got this really vivid image of her in Cascade PD blues, toting a huge gun belt and going up against some of the criminal types he'd seen in his four years of running around with Jim. There is no way someone like Amy could survive the street, he thought, or is there? I'm managing it so far. He found a seat in the back of the class and pulled out a notebook, just as the TA for the class walked in.

Kaitlyn Nakai walked into the auditorium, and glancing to her right, saw Blair Sandburg sitting there, pulling out a notebook. She stopped and leaned over towards him. "Ya-te-ehy, Belagana. Changing your major?"

Blair looked up and smiled at the Native American woman. " Hi, Kat. No, you should know why I'm here."

She reared back, her black hair flying into her face. She brushed it back. "You? They sent you to evaluate me? Man, Kokepelli must be laughing at me right now." She immediately felt sorrow at the way her words must have sounded. "Blair, I'm sorry. I didn't mean that."

He shrugged. "I didn't think that you did." He opened his notebook and raised an eyebrow in her direction. " So, you gonna teach today or should I just pack up and go home, Kat?"

She glanced at her watch. "Oh, damn!"

He watched as she raced up the aisle towards the front of the auditorium, apologizing to her students. Sitting back, he started doing what he did best - observing. Kaitlyn Nakai had just completed her Master's last year and was working towards her own Ph.D. in the relatively new field of Behavioral/Criminal Psychology. He knew from talking with her from time to time that she was planning on either going to work for the F.B.I or maybe the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a profiler, that she loved her subject of study, and from observing her now; that she loved teaching. He settled in to enjoy the class and watching Kat work her students - about 20 or so - into her discussion.


Jim Ellison lay in bed, wondering how his roommate had managed not to wake him up while getting ready for his day. A glance at the clock on his bedside table had revealed the fact that it was after 10am, about four hours later than he was used to getting out of bed. As he lay there, he stretched out his hearing and caught the sound of a small 'click' and then the sound of trickling water. Then his nose picked up the scent. Blair must've set the coffee maker before heading out. Guess it's time to get out of bed then.

The detective made short work of his morning routine, getting to the kitchen just as the last drop of coffee worked its way from the filter into the carafe. Taking a mug down from the cabinet he poured a cup, then noticed that the kitchen was clean. Spotless. For once. He shook his head in amazement as he gathered ingredients to make breakfast for himself. Eggs, bacon, cheese, no toast this morning. He made a mental note to stop by the store on the way home to pick up a few things.


Jim pulled into the station's garage at 11:53 am, parked his truck in its usual spot, and then headed up to Major Crimes. He got there, after taking the stairs, at 11:59. He was just sitting down at his desk and booting up his computer when Captain Banks wandered into the department.

"Did you get enough rest, Ellison?" Simon asked as he passed the detective's desk.

"Sure did."

"Good, then you can tackle another case this afternoon." The Captain continued walking to his office, forcing the other man to follow.

"Another case, Simon?"

"You heard me. Close the door behind you." Simon went around his desk, sat down and reached for a manila folder he had placed in his 'in' basket earlier. He pushed it towards Jim.

He closed the door, turned around and saw his Captain pushing a file folder his way. "That it?" Jim reached over and picked up the file.

"Yeah, looks like it might be connected to either the Wilkerson Towers robbery or the one at Rainier Library."

"Therefore, I get it." Jim settled into one of the chairs across from the desk and opened up the file. He skimmed over it quickly. A residential burglary, the complainant a wealthy novelist and City Council member, items taken... "Oh, hell!"

Simon smirked. "Just what I said when I saw the list. Makes you wonder what the hell is up, doesn't it?"

"Just how many copies of that monograph are around?"

"Maybe you should ask Sandburg."

"I intend to, believe me, Simon. I intend to."

 

Rainier University

Cascade, Washington

Early afternoon, 10 January

 

Blair had handed off his notes about Kaitlyn Nakai's class to Professor Collins' secretary then headed for his cramped office. He couldn't keep official 'office hours,' but he liked to be handy in case one of the Anthropology students had any questions that they wanted to talk to someone about. He had just entered the office when the phone on his desk started to ring. It rang three times before he could drop his pack and locate the phone under a pile of papers.

"Yellow?"

"Chief, got a question for you."

Blair sat down on his desk. "Sure, Jim. Go for it."

"Do you know how many copies of Burton's 'Sentinel' monographs there might be?"

He stood up quickly, and reaching slightly, managed to shut his office door. Satisfied that no one would accidentally overhear, he said, "No. Up until yesterday, I thought mine was maybe one of no more than, maybe, three - four copies in the world. Now, why are you asking?"

Jim's sigh was audible. "Because, another one was taken in a residential burglary late last night, early this morning."

"Who? Where? Oh, man, this cannot be happening!" Blair started to pace, going in a tight oval so as not to get tangled up in the long phone cord.

"Councilman Niksen's home."

"Niksen, Niksen, I should know that name... That's it! He's the Councilman that's also a mystery writer, under another name? Something like Sonny Nix? Why would he have a copy of the monograph?"

"I'm going to ask him just that when I go over to interview him later."

Blair stopped in his pacing. "Jim? Where you calling from, the station?"

"Yeah."

"Stay there, wait for me. I'd like to go with you to Niksen's place. Maybe I can figure out what's going on." He pulled his backpack to his chair and unzipped it, taking stuff out that he wouldn't need, and stuffing in other things that he might.

"How soon can you get here? I don't want to wait too long."

"Fifteen minutes, providing the Volvo starts. It's been giving me fits lately."

Silence on the phone from Jim's end, then, "Chief, stay there. I'll pick you up in about twenty. I've got to drive by the university on the way to Niksen's place anyway."

"Uh, okay. Can you meet me by the Library? I want to ask Alice if she's completed the list and a few other things."

"Fine. See you in a few."

Blair looked at the silent phone, and then put the receiver back in its cradle. Shaking his head, he snatched up his pack and headed out of his office, locking the door behind him. He stopped by the office of the Anthropology Department's only secretary.

"Thea, can I bug you a minute?"

The older woman looked up, smiling. "Sure, Blair. Come on in. Just let me refile these artifact lists and I'll be right with you." She turned back around to face a large bank of filing cabinets, opening several drawers and just dumping the lists into them. "There, I'll double check them later." She turned to face the younger man once again. "Now, what can I do for you?"

"I've got to get over to the Library and you know that I've been kinda, sorta, but not really, officially been keeping office hours?" Thea Devon was not someone to mess with. The woman might be in her late fifties, but she could and often did, keep up with the youngest students on the campus.

Thea smiled. "Okay, if anyone comes looking for you I either send them to you or tell them you're 'out', is that about right?"

Blair let loose a huge smile. "Yeah, just the 'out' part though. I'll be off campus in about fifteen minutes."

"Hmm. Must be going off to the police department again. Okay, you're covered. Go on, get out of here, I've files I have to double chuck, I mean check."

Blair zipped around her desk and quickly planted a kiss on the woman's cheek. "Thanks, Thea. You're a lifesaver."

Thea chuckled as she turned him around and gently gave him a nudge towards her door. "That's sweet, Blair. Now go, before I decide to keep you." Her laughter filled the office as she watched him raise his hands in mock surrender and run out of the office. Shaking her head, she muttered to herself, "That young man is as big a flirt as I've ever seen. But I like it."


Alice Gordon had finished the list, and no, she hadn't heard back from her contact with the Burton estate yet. Yes, she'd ask about the known number of copies of the monographs and notes when he did call back. And yes, it did look like the library would be open for 'normal' business again by Friday. Right now, only certain teaching fellows, instructors and students were allowed in.

Blair raced out to the parking area behind the huge Library, just in time to see Jim's distinctive Blue and White Ford pull into the lot. Getting better at timing yourself, Blair. He walked over to the curb and arrived at the same time Jim pulled up. "Hey, Jim," he called through the open window as he opened the passenger door and jumped in, dropping his pack to the floor. "Here, Alice finished the list you need."

Jim reached over and took the stack of papers from his partner's hand and while Blair made sure that he was securely belted in, Jim glanced over the list. "Any more surprises here?"

"None. Oh, an old copy of Shakespeare's sonnets is the biggest, money wise, item missing. Other than that, everything can easily be replaced with newer copies."

Jim nodded and placed the papers on the seat between them. He pulled away from the curb as he asked, "Anything else to add?"

Out of habit, Blair looked both ways when they pulled up to the stop sign before Jim turned onto Rainier Drive, and answered, "Not really. Alice still hasn't heard back from the Burton Estate, but promised to ask about the Monograph and the Watchers notes when her contact gets back with her. Said it should be later this afternoon, no later than tomorrow."

"Is that wise, Chief?"

"What?"

"Having her ask about certain materials?"

"Why?" As Jim pulled the truck to a stop at a traffic light, he finally got where the detective was heading. "Oh, that. No, Alice will just figure it's me being curious about Burton -- normal pattern for me. She was one of the ones who were instrumental in helping me obtain my copy of the monograph. Oh man! I just thought of something!"

Jim turned the truck down Cosey Rd. "What?"

"There may be a better way to track down the Burton stuff."

"How's that, Chief?"

"I had to register as a owner when I purchased the monograph."

They had just entered a gated community, Sea View, and Jim pulled over for a moment to turn and look at his partner. "Why is that?"

Blair was practically bouncing in his seat. "Because, the Burton Estate likes to keep track of such things. Just in case they get a request for something, or would like to get copies made. They would have a list of owners to contact to get any originals, and possibly a list of folks who had requested copies."

"And this list of owners would have the addresses?"

"Yeah. As would the list of copy owners."

Jim pulled back onto the road, heading for Ocean Drive. "Good thought. When we get back to the station, see if you can get in touch with the Estate and request a copy of their lists. Might help track down anyone in the area that might still have a Burton original or copy and maybe help us get a clue as to who's behind these robberies." About two miles down Ocean Drive, he found the address he was looking for and he pulled into the driveway.

Blair watched as they pulled up to a large home done up in a Roman-Greco style. There were two cars sitting in the drive, a pearl white Aston Martin DB5 and a dark gray Chevy Caprice with 'Guardian Security' decals plastered on it's sides. He snorted. "Gee, wonder which one belongs to the Councilman?"

Jim snickered. "Cool it, Chief. I need to have my best poker face on when we meet with the man. Can't have a snide remark of yours floating around my head."

"Yeah, I can see how that would ruin your image."

 

Willow Springs, Arkansas

Early Afternoon, 10 January

 

Caragh McConnel entered the Galloway County Sheriff's Department, looking for two people, Leland Andrews and/or her husband, Sean. She came across the Sheriff first.

"Hiya, Mike!" Lee greeted her, "You holding up okay?"

"Yeah, Lee. As well as can be expected." She walked over to a convenient desk and put her backpack down. Opening the pack, she pulled out an accordion file and handed it to him. "Here, I just finished those up."

Lee took a peek inside the file. "Hmm. Let's go find Sean, he'll want to see these." He snapped the file closed and the two of them wandered deeper into the building.


Sean was going over the field notes of one of the deputies who had worked a rather nasty traffic accident, or MVA, last night. The responding officer was standing over the Chief Detective's desk waiting for a response.

"These look good, Shane. But you might want to go back out today and double check your measurements."

Shane Thomas smiled as he took the notes back. "Thanks, I was planning on doing that. You really think they're okay?"

"Your notes are fine. Just bring the diagram back when you finish it and let me double check it. They can be tricky." Sean got up and walked over to the communal coffeepot, grabbing another cup for himself. "Any word yet on the driver of the Nissan?"

"Life-Flighted out to University Medical Center in Little Rock two hours ago."

Sean sipped the bitter brew. "Well, that could go either way."

"That's what the nurses told me." Shane looked behind the detective's shoulder and saw the Sheriff and Dr. McConnel approaching. "I'll get back to you later, Sean. Thanks again for the assist."

Sean watched as the younger man fairly ran out of CID and then, smelling a certain scent, turned and saw his wife walking in with the Boss. "Mike. Lee. What brings you down to my neck of the woods this afternoon?"

"I've got the photos from yesterday, Sean," Caragh answered. At her husband's nod they followed him into an interview room where they could go over the photos in private.

"Nice work, Mike. Developed these at the Campus?" Lee asked as they passed photos back and forth.

"Yeah, didn't think the techs at Wal-Mart would appreciate them."

Sean pulled one back to study a little closer. "Oh, I don't know about that, Mike. I seem to recall seeing several of them attending those 'hack-n-slash' films at the movie house."

She batted at him from across the table. "Sean, that's Hollywood and the kids know it. This," she gestured down at the photos, "This is just a little too real, if you know what I mean."

Lee sniggered. "Okay, that's enough you two. Sometimes you act like you've been married for twenty instead of six years."

Sean smiled. "Yeah, it does, doesn't it?" He stood up and stepped out to his desk, returning with the Wilkins file. "Okay, let's see what we have here."

They worked in silence for about an hour pairing up photos with field notes and actual reports, working them into the proper order, organizing them so that when they got a suspect, the DAs office would be able to prosecute to the fullest extent. As they finished up, Caragh asked her husband a question.

"Sean? Have you asked him yet?" He shook his head, 'no'.

Lee stretched back in his chair, the sound of popping backbones clearly audible. "Sorry about that, Sean." He'd seen the detective wince. "Now, ask me what?"

Seeing that the Protector was still reluctant to bring up the subject, Caragh tackled the issue. "I want to check something out of Evidence."

"What?"

"The book recovered by O'Brian at the Wilkins house."

That brought Lee back upright in the chair. "Okay, before I consider that request, which I cannot believe you just asked by the way, I want to know. Why?"

"I need to read it." She leveled her green eyes to stare into the Sheriff's hazel ones.

Lee sighed. "Mike, don't make me drag it out of you. Tell me. Either you or Sean, 'cause the way he's reacting tells me he's not comfortable with the idea either."

"No kidding," came Sean's reply.

"McConnel, shush. Let your Guardian tell her tale."

Caragh hid the smile threatening to burst onto her face. You haven't won yet. Calm down. "You just stated part of the reason, Lee."

"Huh? You just lost me, Mike."

"Did you get a chance to see the book before Sean here locked it up?"

Lee shook his head. "No, I had to get to a meeting of the County Supervisor's Board." He noticed that Sean continued to flip through the Wilkin's case file as the conversation went on around him. What is he hiding? He sure as heck don't look too happy.

"It was a collection of research notes, put together by James 'Blackie' Wilkins back in the late eighteen hundreds. Notes that he made while traveling with another researcher, Richard Burton." Caragh paused to see if any of this had registered yet on the Sheriff's mind. Apparently not yet. Okay, let's go a bit further. "Lee, when Sean and I brought you into our confidence all those years ago, do you recall my telling you about the significance of Burton's work? The monograph?"

Lee suddenly remembered. "The one about 'sentinels' or something? You told me that was another word for what Sean is, right?"

"Yes. Okay, the book that Craig found last night was titled 'Guardians and Protectors.' I didn't get a good look at it, but it looked as though it had been professionally published. I won't know for certain until I can examine it. Closely. And that includes reading it."

Lee sat in silence for a few minutes, contemplating his choices. "Caragh, I'm not so sure I can do that. We haven't even had the boys from Northwest Crime Lab come over and take a look at it or the crime scene, have we, Sean?"

"Not yet. They should be here no later than 3:30 PM according to their last ETA." Sean stood up and walked out of the interview room, leaving behind his companions of the last hour or so.

"Now, where do you suppose he went off to?" Lee asked.

Caragh sighed. "Probably went to calm down. We've been arguing about this off and on since I brought it up last night."

"And rightly so." The older man turned a serious face towards her. "Mike, if I just hand that book over to you, even if we follow procedures and place it into your 'custody' as an expert; when we catch the person, or persons, that killed Art Wilkins and if they get a good defense attorney, our whole case could be sunk."

"I know that, Lee. Really, I do."

Lee sighed. "This is about your duty to Sean as his Guardian, isn't it? You're willing to toss away your commission, your reputation, just to make sure that he's safe. Aren't you?"

"Yes. I have to do this, Lee." She met his eyes, making sure that he understood her depth of commitment.

The Sheriff sighed. "Okay. I'll make you a deal. If the Lab boys cannot find anything useful, no fingerprints or other latent evidence on the book, I'll check with Bradley at the DA's office about getting it to you." He relaxed as Caragh smiled at him. "I make no promises, Mike. Bradley's just enough of a prick to say no, given the chance."

"He won't," Caragh stated confidently.

"And how can you be so sure, young lady?"

She smiled a feral, almost cunning, grin. "Because, when Sean and I were arguing last night I asked him if he had examined the book, if he had seen any prints or other kind of evidence that would make it valuable to have in court."

"And?"

"Nothing. Not a single print. The leather binding was too old to hold onto the oils very long to be useful."

"There are new techniques that can pull up latents you know." He was referring to techniques that the State Crime Lab was just starting to use on a regular basis.

"Better than a Protector?"

Lee gave up. He knew when he was beaten, and Caragh had been playing this kind of game with him for far too long to let him win. He stood up and, glancing at his watch, made his excuses. "Mike, I've got to get to another meeting. Ask Sean to page me when the Lab Techs get here."

"Sure, Lee." Caragh stood up, twisting to get her spine back in order. "I take it you want to be there when they run their tests on the book?" She started to gather up her papers, stuffing them into her back bag.

"What do you think?" He left the conference room, leaving the door wide open.

"Barn dweller." Caragh muttered under her breath. Glancing at her own watch she noticed that there would be about another hour's wait for the State Lab people to arrive, then at least another half hour to an hour for them to set up. She grabbed up her back bag and headed back out to the bullpen of CID. She spotted one of Sean's better detectives just coming in to the office. "Hiya, Joe!"

Joe Kelley turned around to see his old High School friend, now married to his boss and one hell of a photographer as well as his younger sister's favorite teacher, walking towards him from the area of the conference room. "Mike! Slumming again?"

Caragh reached out and grabbed the detective's arm, friendly like, at the elbow. "Slumming? Is that what you call it now?"

"Oh, come on, Mike. You're a Doctor of Anthropology at the College, why did you insist on marrying Sean and keeping your commission as a reservist?"

Caragh smiled. "Jealous, Joe?" She was fully aware that the other man had, at one time, considered himself a prime catch.

He felt the heat of a blush creeping up on his face. "Damn straight. I sure as hell wouldn't be wasting my time here in Galloway County if I had your credentials. I'd be out there," he gestured widely around him, "Traveling the world, doing whatever it is you Anthropologists do."

"We study people, Joe." She let go of his arm and shrugged her pack up onto her shoulder. "And what better place can you think of to study all levels of a small town mentality than Galloway County and it's Law Enforcement Departments?" With that she turned and made to walk away. But she turned back around at the last second before leaving the bullpen.

Joe was still watching her and asked, "Forget something, Mike?" He smiled, enjoying the look of confusion that had crossed her face.

Caragh noticed the smug grin. "No, never mind. I'll just stop by and ask Doris to pass my message on. That way I know he'll get it." She left.

Joe shook his head as he wandered over to his desk and sat down. Damnit. She's never going to let that one go, is she? So what if I forgot to tell her that some friend of hers from Washington State had called, asking her to take his place on some frigg'n expedition? Sheesh. That was over four years ago.


Doris Speer looked up from the phone call she was taking as Caragh McConnel walked into the dispatch center. She waved, acknowledging her presence, but never let her attention waver off the caller's complaint.

"Mrs. McGaffe, how many times have you talked to Detective Kelley about this?" Pause, "Okay, so you know that there is nothing that the Sheriff's department can really do about this situation of yours with your neighbor, right? Uh, huh. Hmm. Yes, I know how upsetting that can be. Uh, huh. You're right."

Caragh listened to Doris' half of the conversation, knowing that the dispatcher had identified her caller for her sake. Chuckling, she placed her back bag on a spare desk and sat down in the extra chair. Turning to smile at the other dispatcher on duty, she settled in to wait for Doris to finish her call.

Charlie Lowe was in his early twenties, a tall blonde with the build of a cross-country runner. He was also a student at the college and in one of Doctor McConnel's classes. "Good afternoon, Professor Mike."

"Afternoon, Charlie. Slow day?"

"So far." He pointedly glanced over at Doris. "I'm just glad Dee answered that call and not me. Goofy McGaffe. Not my idea of a nice way to start off a shift."

Caragh settled back into the chair. "What's her complaint this week?"

"Same one as always. Nude Neighbor." He kept his voice low so as not to be overheard by Doris' caller. He watched as his Instructor had to seriously bite her tongue to keep from laughing out loud.

Clearing tears from her eyes, she looked up at the tall man sitting across from her. "She's still raising heck about that? Must be going on five years now."

Charlie shrugged. "I'm guessing that she really likes looking, but then feeling guilty about that -- she has to call in and complain about his 'flaunting'."

"Do you know how many times she's been told that if it really bothers her, she just shouldn't be looking out that particular window of hers at six in the morning?"

Doris had finished her call and started to laugh. "Charlie, Mike, stop it! I have a hard enough time controlling myself when I talk to her!" She stood up and walked over to check on her co-worker's status. "You be okay for a few, Charlie?"

"Sure. Smoke one for me while you're out there."

"Come on, Mike. I really do need the smoke." Doris waited until Caragh had picked up her pack, then led the way out of the dispatch office to a back door that lead outside. "Damn weather! Cold one day, warm the next. I never know if I should bring in a jacket or just a sweater." Digging a cigarette out of her pocket and lighting it, she turned her attention to her friend. "So, Mike, what can I do for you?"

"Talked with the Crime Lab team that's coming up here lately?" Caragh leaned against the building, soaking up the late afternoon sun. Doris was right, for early January, it was just too warm.

"Just before Goofy called. They had to revise their ETA, again. Something about the portable lab van sucking up the fuel coming over the mountains."

"And their new ETA is?"

Doris took a deep drag off her cigarette and exhaled before answering. "Closer to four, than three-thirty. Had to stop in Eureka and got caught up in some kind of local parade, or Hell's Angels convention."

Caragh sighed. "Okay. That's not what I wanted to hear, but... Look, when you pass that on to Sean, tell him I went back to my office on campus and I'll meet him at home later."

"You waiting on them lab boys too?"

"I was going to, but I have a ton of work to catch up on."

Doris put her cigarette out in the ash can. "Okay, I'll tell him. And Mike? I'm sorry had to leave you in the dark yesterday, but Andrews wanted it that way."

"It's okay, Doris, I understand. Sean told me you had him call in for the info instead of broadcasting it. Too many folks in this county have scanners and Lee just didn't want to unduly scare anyone."

"Damn straight!" Doris glanced at her watch. "I need to get back inside, evening field staff about to come on. I'll pass on the message to Sean, don't worry."

Caragh pushed off the wall and pulled her pack back up onto her shoulder. "I know you will. Thanks." She walked off towards the front lot where her truck waited.

Doris watched her friend walk off, noticing the ever so slight slump of Caragh's shoulders, knowing that it signaled tiredness. "Take care, Mike." And she went back into the building and the routine handling of units coming on duty and getting their assignments.


Caragh made one phone call when she got back to her office on campus, then settled in to work on the last draft of her mid-term tests that she had to give in a week. Five classes, all at different levels of study, five different tests to be given out, proctored and graded. Hated Middies when I had to take the damn things myself, and I hate them even more now! Grabbing another cup of hot tea from her coffee maker, she settled in to double check her work.

 

Cascade, Washington

Early Evening, 10 January

 

"Mr. Niksen, thank you for taking the time to see us."

"Not a great difficulty, I assure you, Detective. I needed a break anyway." The older, silver haired gentleman sat down in a huge armchair, gesturing for his two visitors to seat themselves. "Now, what can I do for you?"

"We're here about the break in and theft of your books... " Jim started.

"Excuse me, Detective. Some of the rare books I collected, not my books."

Blair hid a smile by chewing on the inside of his cheek, and watched as Jim tried to regain footing with the Novelist cum Councilman.

"You're right, sorry about that. Can you tell me what books were taken from your collection?"

Niksen let out a weary sigh. "I told all this to the patrolman that took my report this morning, need I really repeat myself?"

Jim clenched his jaw. He could tell, working with Niksen was going to be a real pain. "No, sir, I guess you don't. Let me ask you one thing. Have you any idea as to why someone would break in to your home and steal only certain books of yours?"

Niksen smiled, thinking, Finally, he asks a decent question! "No, I am afraid that I can not. The books that were taken were old, one or two almost a hundred years old and in good condition -- very rare finds, but other than that, I haven't a clue."

Blair felt encouraged to say something at this point. "Mr. Niksen, did you ever read any of the books that were taken?" Niksen looked at him like he had suddenly grown two heads, a horrified expression crossing his face.

"Heaven's no! The acids in the human hand would ruin the pages! I never even handled the books with out wearing thin cotton gloves."

"To protect the bindings, correct?" Blair continued.

"Of course!" Niksen turned his attention fully to the younger man. "I say, you're a bright fellow, know how to treat your books. So, you're either a collector yourself, or maybe a student of antiquities. How did you manage to hook up with the police?"

Blair grinned, starting to like the old man. "I'm an Anthropology student at Rainier, we handle rare items all the time. Artifacts, manuscripts, books, you name it."

"And your involvement with the police? Case related only, or are you doing one of those studies you chaps always seem to be doing?" Niksen leaned forward in the huge chair, intensely studying the young man.

"I started out as an Observer, but now I'm a detective. Detective Ellison asked for my assistance in this matter." He felt Jim's gaze upon him. Hey, Jim, chill. You were the one who introduced me as your associate, not your 'partner'. It's natural that the writer would be curious.

"Ah, then the theft of my books must be tied in somehow, maybe, with the break in at your university?"

Jim broke in, "We can't tell for certain, Mr. Niksen, but we have to check every angle."

Niksen returned his attention to the taller detective. "Of course. Forgive me for wandering. But I'm always on the look out for fresh story ideas."

Jim asked a few more questions, all of which Niksen answered readily, no longer seeming to care that some were the same questions asked by the patrolman. As Niksen walked them to the door, the old man asked a favor.

"Detective Sandburg, if you have time later this week, I'd love to interview you. As a background study for a new character, if you don't mind?"

Blair looked at the man, confused. "Interview?"

"I've been thinking of starting a new series, I'm getting rather tired of my current one, and I usually find someone to 'base' a character on. Makes them more realistic for my readers."

Jim shook his head, not really believing what he was hearing. Blair's heart rate was skyrocketing; maybe he needed a way out of this. "Sandburg, didn't you tell me earlier that you had a pretty full schedule this week?"

Blair turned grateful eyes to his partner. "Yeah, you're right, Jim. Mr. Niksen, I'm sorry, but this just isn't a good time right now. Maybe later?"

Niksen nodded and reached into his back pocket, pulling out his wallet then a business card. "I understand, Detective. Please, take my card and when your time allows, give me a call. I truly think that a character built around you would be just what I'm looking for."

Taking the card, Blair shook the writer's hand. "Okay. I can do that. But no promises. I never know what I'm going to be doing from week to week."

"Thank you. And Detectives? I hope that you can find the hoodlums that took those books of mine, and I'm sorry for my brusque behavior earlier." He reached out and shook Ellison's hand.

"We'll do our best, Mr. Niksen. Good evening, sir."

The two friends walked down the massive steps to Jim's truck. As they did so, Blair noticed that the security company's car was gone. "Jim?" He pointed to where the car had been parked.

"Yeah, I noticed. While we were in the study with Niksen I heard a man talking with another about the security arrangements. Must have been the old man's assistant and the company rep." He unlocked the passenger side door, then walked around to get in on the driver's side.

"Guess Niksen wasn't real pleased that his home was broken into." Blair put his seat belt on.

Jim climbed into the cab, started the engine and secured his own belt. "Well, I don't blame him. Guardian Security is supposed to be one of the best firms in Cascade. That someone could bypass their alarm systems has me wondering about the skill level of our thief."

Blair sat back and let his mind race around Jim's statement, seeing where it would lead. "Jim? Are you saying that this had to be a pro? Not just your everyday, run of the mill, burglar?"

Jim pulled his attention off the road in front of him for a split second and smiled at his partner. "You got it, Chief."

Blair groaned. "Oh, man. That means you'll want to go back over the other two scenes with that in mind and use your sentinel abilities a little harder. Doesn't it?"

"Think you could get Alice Gordon to let us back in? Tonight?"

"Maybe. Probably. But what about Wilkerson Towers?"

Jim smiled, almost a feral grin. "I know the guard on duty tonight. He owes me a favor."

 

Willow Springs, Arkansas

Late Evening, January 10

 

Caragh was pulling a large casserole dish out of the oven when Sean arrived at home. She didn't even wait for him to enter the house before telling him, "Supper's almost ready, hope you're in the mood for lasagna," knowing he'd hear her.

Sean paused as he stepped out of his Suburban, hearing his wife talking to him, and then he sniffed the air. "Hmm, smells wonderful." He reached back into the vehicle, pulled out his rarely used briefcase and entered their home through a side entrance. Walking down the hall to the kitchen, he called out, "Mike? I don't know what you said to Bradley, but you got what you wanted."

She smiled as he entered the kitchen, turned and watched as he put his case on the table and opened it to reveal files and a carefully bagged book. "What makes you think I said two words to Jeff Bradley at any time today?"

Pulling the bagged book out of his case, he held it out towards her. "Because, he said something along the lines of 'Since we don't have any evidence of the book's connection to the actual crime, then we should let our resident expert study it.' And then he handed the damn thing off to me, telling me to make sure that you got it."

Reaching out, she took the book into her possession. "Which you have done. Thank you Detective McConnel." She even sketched a reasonable curtsy towards him.

He watched, surprised that she didn't immediately start her reading of the book, but rather put it on the bookshelf above the refrigerator and then returned to her work of getting supper on the table. "What? Not going to start on it now?"

She turned back to him, knife in her hand from where she'd been cutting tomatoes for the salad. "I thought I'd get us and the cats feed before indulging." She turned back to her task. "Besides, now that I have the damn thing, I'm not so worried about it anymore."

Sean just looked at her as she calmly put together the salads for their meal. "Whatever. Mike, sometimes I wonder if I'll ever get you all figured out. You practically hounded me all last night about that book and now you act like it's no big deal."

She shrugged. "Go get cleaned up and whistle up the kitties, I'll feed them right before I feed us."

Deciding retreat right at that moment was a good thing, he left to do as she asked. When Sean returned to the kitchen, with Guineth and Aidan in tow, he noticed that she had cleared the table and was setting the cat dishes down in their accustomed spot. He looked over to see that she had already dished up healthy servings of the lasagna, vegetarian as she was on one of her kicks again, and the salads were already on the table. Hearing something dripping, he looked over to see the coffee maker going, testing the air he smiled.

"Hmm, extra strength Colombian. Guess I know what that means."

Caragh smiled weakly as she put his salad and lasagna down in front of him as he took his seat. "Sorry, Sean. It's just a precaution, but you know how I can get when I start on a project."

"Yeah, I know. Guess it means that you've already made arrangements for Tommy to cover your classes tomorrow as well?" He dug into his salad, savoring the homemade lemon ... thyme dressing that she'd put on it.

"Of course. It's just my freshman classes tomorrow, gives him good practice. He's scheduled to take on the classes by himself starting next year."

They ate in silence; then Sean went off to their home office to work a little more on the files and cases he had brought home, while Caragh cleaned up the kitchen, poured a large mug of her coffee and curled up on the couch to read. She barely acknowledged her husband's goodnight kiss she was so absorbed in her reading of Blackie Wilkins' notes.

 

Cascade, WA

Afternoon, 15 January

 

Jim sat at his desk in the Major Crimes bullpen, rotating his head trying to relieve the tension in his neck that was starting to cause a headache. Six days had passed since the burglaries at Rainier and Wilkerson Towers, five since the one at the Niksen residence, four since Blair was able to obtain a list of Burton manuscript owners {copies and originals} from the Burton Estate, and still no progress. He, Blair and the rest of the Major Crimes detectives had put down two more murder cases, a new drug running operation and closed down an illegal immigrant pipeline during that time, but the other three cases under his care had gone absolutely nowhere.

To make things worse, Wilkerson himself had started to hound the Police Chief personally about the progress, or lack there of, and the ball rolled down the chain of command until it landed squarely on one Detective James Ellison's desk. He had heard the private phone line in his Captain's office ring about ten minutes ago, tried not to listen in as Simon Banks' voice rose higher and higher during the conversation, and dreaded the outcome. He looked up when the Captain fell silent, only to see the man approaching his desk.

"Ellison, I hate to ask you this, again. But the Chief wants to know... "

"I know, Simon. I just haven't caught any breaks on those cases. I'm starting to think that I never will." Jim let the frustration he was feeling show in his voice.

"Possible dead files?"

"Looks that way. I've tried everything, so has Sandburg, Rafe, Brown and Taggart. Not a single lead."

Simon reached over and put a hand on his detective's shoulder. "Jim, I know. Look, unless something comes up, declare the damn cases 'dead' and move on." He stepped back when Jim shot him a nasty look. "Don't look at me that way, Ellison. You've been on the job long enough to know that some cases just can't be solved. Get over it."

Jim closed the files on his computer, the ones pertaining to the manuscript robberies, and started to close down his workstation. "You're right, I do know that. But I don't like it. I keep getting this feeling that there's something else I should be doing." He heard the arrival of his partner on the seventh floor. "Maybe I should just give up on them for a while, come back to them later with a fresh mind."

Simon grinned around his ever present, unlit, cigar. "That's the best idea I've heard come from you in a long while. Ah, Sandburg, glad you're here."

Letting his backpack slide to the floor near Jim's desk, he looked up at the Captain in surprise. "You are, Simon?"

"Yeah, take your partner here and get out of what little is left of my hair. Take the next three days off, get your minds cleared up, his in particular." He said, pointing at Jim. "Go fishing or something. When you get back I'll expect a decision about those three cases, Jim. But for now, get out of my department!" Simon turned on his heels and walked back to his office.

Blair stared after the tall man. "Wow! What was that all about?"

Jim stood up, grabbing his light-weight jacket off his chair, muttering, "I'll give you three clues, Chief. Rainy Library, Wilkerson, and Niksen."

"Oh. I've got another idea I wanted to float past you about those cases... "

"Later, Chief. Let's get out of here before Simon reneges on his offer." Jim reached over, grabbed up Blair's backpack and tossed it at him as they made their way out of the department.


Instead of taking the suggestion of Captain Simon Banks, Jim and Blair opted to stay in Cascade. The weather recently was just too chancy to risk getting caught up in the mountain range if winter decided to show up again. So instead, they chose to do some deep cleaning of the loft, rather Jim decided they should do that. But for once, Blair didn't complain.

After the second day, they were relaxing on the couch, completely done with their early spring cleaning, watching a Jags game on television when Jim remembered that Blair had had another idea about the robberies, but had never said anything else.

He waited until a commercial break to bring it up. "Hey, Chief? Remember how on Thursday you said something about an idea for the Manuscript cases? What was it?"

Blair just stared at him, until he recalled the comment. "I'd been talking with Steve and Deena in the radio room about the National Crimes Information Computer system, how it works and what all you could put on it, and I thought why don't we put the books up on the thing?"

Jim stared at his roommate. The NCIC system was linked directly into the FBI's national database and had connections with the Canadian system. Mostly what was listed there were such things as wanted felons, missing or stolen guns, missing persons, but sometimes you could enter stuff such as crime MO. Not as a permanent record, but as a general broadcast to all law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

"That's a good idea, wonder why I didn't think of it sooner?" Jim stood up to go grab another beer and the case files he's managed to bring home without Simon's knowing about it.

Blair smiled and shrugged. "Jim, you hate messing with computers. I just thought about this and asked Steve and Deena if it could be done and they said it could and would be better than my original idea of putting the stuff up on the Internet."

Jim sat back down on the couch, handing Blair the second beer in his hand, and placed the files on the coffee table in front of them just as the game came back on. Neither man paid much attention to the game after that, they were busy putting together notes about the different crimes scenes, what connected them, apparent method of entry, possible motivation for the crimes, a list of Burton owners -- it was becoming clear to them that Burton was the connection -- anything that might give other investigators throughout the country a chance to link any past crimes, current crimes or future crimes to the events in Cascade Washington. By midnight, they had completed their notes and were prepared to present the idea to Captain Banks first thing Monday morning. Or rather, Jim would. Blair had a meeting with Professor Collins at Nine.

 

Willow Springs, AR

Late morning, 19 January

 

Doris Speer entered the Galloway County Sheriff's Office, cursing the weather that was moving into the area. Right behind her came Charlie Lowe, shaking off the heavy dusting of snow from his coat. "Morning, Doris."

"Humph! Damn weather! Damn fools driving on these slick roads!" The older woman stomped the snow from her boots, glaring up at the heavy, snow laden clouds just beyond the overhang.

Charlie tried to contain his laughter, and failed. "How many near misses?" He opened the door to the building, letting his shift boss precede him into the warmth.

"Too damn many!" Doris grumped as she walked pass him into the nice, warm, environment of the office building. "Come on, let's get back to our little hole and see about getting the day shift out of here and home safely before this system really dumps on us."


The two of them walked back to the dispatch center, only to find the place in total chaos. The three dispatchers on duty there handled calls that ranged from simple road travel inquiries -- not recommended -- to reports of multiple motor vehicle accidents, both with and without injury and/or property damage, as well as a ton of calls requesting medical assistance of all kinds. The GCSO Dispatch Center handled all kinds of emergency traffic, as they were a 9-1-1 answering station and dispatched not only local law enforcement, but fire and medical responders as well.

Like the well trained team that they were, Doris and Charlie moved in to get briefings from the other dispatchers, working up to relieving them and taking over their duties. Charlie was to have the radios and the inter-department phones, while Doris would handle the 9-1-1 station, the other phones, and run the NCIC/ACIC terminals for Charlie when he had a call from a officer to run a query on either a person or a vehicle.

Doris was flipping through the NCIC/ACIC terminal traffic board, looking for anything that she'd have to have Charlie broadcast later as updates, these were mostly what was know in the business as BOLO's (Be On the Look Out) and sometimes APB's (All Points Bulletin). Hearing the NCIC terminal beep at her, she looked and saw that there were five messages queued up. Sitting quickly at the keyboard, she started to bring them up. The first four were, luckily, not warrant confirmations, but rather weather updates put out by State Police Headquarters. It was the fourth one that got her attention.

"Charlie! See where Detective McConnel is for me, will you?" she demanded as she hit the 'print' button twice so as to get two copies of the memo, one for the dispatch center, and one for the Detective.

Glancing at his computer aided dispatch screen, he noted that GS-701 (McConnel, Sean) was reportedly here in the Sheriff's department. "Dee, I'm showing him 10-81."

"Thanks." She reached out, picked up the inter-department phone and dialed Sean's extension. It rang three times before his voice mail picked it up. " Damn." She hung up and then went over to another computer terminal where she typed in a short message, then hit the command key that would send the message to the detective's pager.

"Doris? What have you got?"

The older woman looked at the woman asking the question, Christi, and gave her the best go-to-Hades looks she could muster. "If you'd pay attention to this terminal once in a while, Christi, you'd know." She looked over at her counter-part, the day shift coordinator and asked, "Kay, who was on the radio when Sean came in?"

"I was. Right up until Charlie took over. Sean never left the building, or if he did, he never called it in to me."

"Okay, thanks." She nodded at the day shift coordinator, and then turned back to the younger dispatcher. " Christi, I know that Kay was busy and you were probably helping her out, but we've got to pay attention to that terminal!" Doris was trying to calm down, but the girl had been with the department for over a year now and shouldn't have to be constantly reminded. "What if we'd gotten a 'hit' on a felony warrant from a traffic stop and because you weren't paying attention, ten minutes lapsed and the officer had to let the subject go?"

Christi had the grace to blush and avert her gaze from the irate Doris. " I know, I'm sorry. It's been really nuts in here this morning."

"Just don't let me catch you, or hear of you, ever letting it happen again. Now, go on, you, Kay and Sammie get out of here." She ushered the three of them to the door. "And be careful out there. This snow seems to have brought all of our favorite idiots out to play."

Kay and Christi left, but Sammie lagged behind. "Doris? You sure you don't want me to stay? I only live a few blocks away, I can walk if it gets any worse."

Sammie was a tall young lady with dark brown hair and serious eyes --and a student Paramedic to boot. Doris thought about the offer. "Okay, stay... But only until this traffic settles down, then you go home!"

"Thanks! If you want, I can stay in here with Charlie while you go track down Sean. And maybe suck down one of your cancer sticks?" She striped out of her jacket and took over Doris's position by the 9-1-1 phone.

Doris ran her hands through her short brown hair. "Do I really look like I need one that bad, hon?"

Charlie turned away from the radio. "No offense, Dee, but yeah. You do. Sam and I can hold the fort down. The phones are settling and the units that are out are all working MVA's so they'll be tied up for a while. Go on, get out of here." He turned back as a unit called for his attention.

"I'll be back in fifteen, maybe twenty." She grabbed up her coat, checking to make sure her cigarettes were in her pocket and left the center. After five minutes of prowling the offices, she gave up trying to find Sean and headed out to the parking garage where she could smoke without getting snowed on. It was there that she found the detective, putting snow chains on his unit. He had a portable radio blaring beside him and it was on a classic rock station. She lit up and walked over to him.

"Sean! SEAN!"

He came out from under the Suburban holding his head. "Yeowch! Doris! You don't have to yell! I heard you the first time!" Sean tried, and finally succeeded in getting his sensitive hearing back down to 'normal' range. The radio wasn't really that loud, but he'd been practicing tuning, or filtering, out noises lately with Caragh and radio was a good thing to attempt to filter as it was always changing.

"I'm surprised." She reached down and turned off the offensive noise. "I found something on the NCIC terminal that I thought you'd be interested in." She pulled the printout from her pocket and handed it to him.

Sean took the paper from her and read the contents. "This is interesting, thanks, Doris."

"You saw where the report originated from? Isn't that were Mike did some of her college learning?"

Sean looked back at the header on the information. "Yeah, I think so. I'd have to ask to make sure."

Doris finished her cigarette and put it out on the sole of her shoe, field striping the butt and pocketing the remains. "Weird how some things happen, ain't it?"

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, 'bout four years back I passed on a call to your department from an old friend of Mike's, can't recall the guy's name now. Anyway, Joe took the call and the message, but it never got to Mike. She was pretty pissed about it. You sure you didn't know about this?" Doris looked up at the detective.

"First I've heard of it, Scout's Honor." He held up his hand in the classic Boy Scout salute.

"Uh, huh. Any who, I guess this old friend of hers from that school she went to had to decline a position on an expedition and wondered if she wanted to take his place. He had to have an answer in like an hour, but she didn't get the message until the next day."

Sean closed his eyes and shook his head. "No wonder she and Joe try to avoid each other. You said this happened four years ago? Any idea where the expedition was heading?" He was just curious, he and Caragh had been together three years back then and he was still having a lot of trouble handling these senses of his, so there was no way that she would've gone. But she'd missed a chance to talk to an old friend, no wonder she always looked like she wanted to skewer detective Kelley whenever she saw him.

Doris shrugged. "Yeah, four years. I think the scuttlebutt at the time was that the trip would've taken her to Borneo. I did some checking on my own and found out that the trip was being headed up by a Doctor Stoddard."

Sean merely smiled as he put the paper she'd brought him into his coat pocket. "Well, sometimes things work out for the best. Thanks for bringing this to me. I need to go find Lee and see what he thinks."

They walked back into the building together and Sean took off to find Sheriff Andrews while Doris returned to the Dispatch Center.


Caragh McConnel sat behind her desk at the college, reading the book she'd been poring over for nearly two weeks, and making notes as she went along. From her reading, she concluded that Blackie Wilkins had never told Burton he was making his own study, but that he was using Burton's works on the Watchers of Africa and the Sentinels of Paraguay as basis for his research -- into her family. It was all there, Caragh's own great-grandfather and her grand uncle -- the Guardian and Protector of that generation, Moiré's father and her 'adopted' uncle.

The Michaels, the Rheagans, the O'Neills, and the Crowes had a history of being Guardians and/or Protectors that could be traced back to the late 1100's. It was kept in several 'secret' journals that only a chosen few members of the Clan knew how to read. Moiré was the 'keeper' of the Journals for now, but soon it would come to Caragh, as rightful Guardian and Shaman to the Clan.

Getting her mind back on her notes, she had a sudden thought to try and contact the only other person in the United States that wouldn't laugh at her questions about Burton and his controversial writings. She was digging in her backpack to find her address book when she happened to glance out her office window and noticed how heavily the snow was falling. Sighing, she ceased her rummaging. "Guess I'll try later, Blayre." She packed up the Wilkins book, along with her notes, bundled up and headed out to her truck. Once there, she decided to ride over to the Sheriff's Department instead of trying to make it home on the increasingly slick roads, knowing that if push came to shove, she'd be able to bunk down there.


Sean had located the Sheriff and instead of explaining the situation, just handed Lee the printout that Doris had brought him. "Lee, here, read this."

Lee read the report and remarked, "So, we weren't the only ones to have such a burglary on that day, but ours was coupled with a murder. Great." He led the way into his office, making his way over to the coffee machine he kept there. Turning to face his detective, he asked, "You want a warm up? It's awfully cold out there."

"Thanks. You're right, but at least I got the chains on my unit in case the field staff need to borrow it." Sean took the proffered mug of coffee.

"Speaking of that, you think Mike will come here after she leaves campus?" Lee sat down on the couch he had in his office, gesturing for Sean to join him there.

"Probably, she usually does when the weather gets nasty like this."

"You hear the latest? They're calling for us to get over a foot of snow, maybe two."

Sean shook his head in dismay. "I heard. You know, the county road crews aren't going to be able to keep up. That last storm we got nearly did them in."

"No kidding! I heard that the Judge was getting more sand, gravel and salt brought in after that one. I just hope it's gotten here already." He took a drink of his coffee, enjoying the warmth that spread through his body. "Okay, look, find out the phone number for that police station that put that report up on NCIC and get in touch with their lead detective. Exchange information. It's a stretch, but maybe we can help each other out."

"You're right, it is a stretch, but I've come to the end of my rope trying to find out what happened, who did it and why." Sean sipped his own coffee then continued, "And that bothers me. I hate to leave a case open this long, but I can't close it either."

"Alyssa still staying with your people out there at the Caer?"

"No, she left two days ago to visit family down in Texas. I wanted Mike to go with her, just to keep her company, but 'Lyssa insisted on going alone." Noticing the questioning glance from his superior he added, "Don't worry, she called last night to tell us that she got into San Antonio okay."

"Good. I worried about that." Lee finished off his coffee and stood up to get a refill. "Now, go see what you can dig up on that case."

Sean stood up, saluted the Sheriff with his coffee mug and left the office, seeking out his own desk and the NCIC terminal there. With any luck, he'd be able to locate the phone number he wanted without help from Doris or Charlie. Or Mike, when she gets here. I just can't make the damn thing jump through hoops like she can. No matter how long she tries to train me.


Caragh McConnel made it to the Sheriff's Office without any mishaps, an amazing feat considering just how many idiots she had passed who had spun off into the ditches and a few into telephone poles. She had stopped at every scene to check on the drivers, and since none of them were hurt and damage to the cars and other property was minimal, she took a preliminary report, gave them her card, told them to contact their insurance companies in the morning, and to give her a week to get the reports ready. They all thanked her, and she put in a call to Doris to request the next wrecker for each car, then advised the owner to stay with the cars until the wreckers got there or if they didn't want to wait for the hour, hour and a half, to leave the keys with the police department or Sheriff's office. Most decided to stay with their cars, no matter how long the wait.

When she pulled into the parking garage, it was nearly two hours since she'd left the College and she was cold and wet. Not her favorite condition to be in. Grabbing up both her school backpack and her 'emergency' backpack from behind the bench seat of her truck, she made her way into the office. Stopping by the Dispatch Center she thanked both Doris and Charlie for their assistance, and they in turn passed on thanks to her. Not only from themselves, but also from Willow Springs PD who were busy working accidents all over the small city.

Doris took in the two backpacks that Caragh was carrying and quipped, "So, you planning on staying the night, Mike?"

She lifted her 'emergency' pack and smiled. "Yeah, make sure I get a bunk will you?"

"Give me your pack and I'll go lay claim to a bed for both you and Sean. I get this feeling that he's not going home either." Charlie took the pack from her and disappeared to go seek out the emergency shelter area.

Doris grinned wickedly as she took out a cigarette and lit up there in the Center. Seeing Caragh's look she replied, "Special compensation from the Sheriff and the Judge. I'm stuck here until the thaw, so I get to smoke in here."

"Let me guess, you came in early to get the day girls out, then Anna can't make it in from Rowan, so you and Charlie are both stuck until someone can make it in to relieve you." Caragh was starting to feel a little warmer, so she removed her coat and hung it on a hook behind the door.

"You got it. But I don't mind, and I don't think Charlie does either."

"Fine. Let me get some rest this evening, then come get me about 2 AM and I'll relieve you so that you can get some sleep."

"You sure about that, Mike? I hate to impose on you."

She smiled. "You're not. Let me point out that I'll work the Center from 2 to say 7 and then you, Charlie or one of the field officers can come in and relieve me."

"That's a plan. Thanks, Mike."

Charlie came back into the room just then. "Hey, Dee, did you tell her? About that information that came in earlier?" He sat back down at the 9-1-1 station as he looked over at his supervisor.

"Not yet." Doris finished her cigarette and put it out in a real ashtray that had somehow found it's way into the Center.

"What info?"

"A information only memo from Cascade. I handed it off to Sean shortly after it came in," Doris answered nonchalantly.

"Cascade? As in Washington state? That Cascade?"

"Yeah, that Cascade. You know the place, where you went to school for seven years?" Doris replied, a hint of doubt coloring her voice, as if she wasn't sure she was recalling everything.

"Rainier University, lord that brings back some memories." Caragh sat down and smiled as the thoughts ran through her head. "Now, what kind of info was it, Doris?"

It was the telecommunicator's turn to grin like a Cheshire cat. "It seems that they had a string of burglaries out there involving rare books, I thought it might tie in to the Wilkins case, so I gave it to Sean."

Looking over Doris' shoulder to the status board of the units, she noticed that Sean was still logged in as being here at the office. "Okay, thanks Doris. I guess I'd better go and find him, see what he's got." She stood up and looked over at Charlie. "And don't forget our little deal, Doris. Send Charlie to raid the Jail's kitchen and get you both something to eat and make sure he gets some rest. You too."

"I will. Now, get out of my area until you're supposed to be back here."


Caragh found Sean glaring at his NCIC/ACIC terminal with a look that, if the computer had been a living being, would've killed it with its intensity. "Sean? You okay?"

"Mike, I'm glad you're here. I need you to look something up for me." He stood up and let her take his chair. " See what you can pull up on a," he paused to look back at the printout in his hand, "Cascade, Washington PD will you?"

"Let me see that printout." She held out her hand. He handed it off to her and she read the report. "Silly, look here." Caragh pointed to the very last paragraph of the printout. "See? The name of the detective you need to talk to, the number for the PD and his extension are all right here."

Sean grabbed the paper from her hand and looked at the paragraph in question. "I cannot believe I missed that. I thought it was all routing data."

"Common enough mistake. I won't tell anyone." She grinned at him. "So, you still want me to show you how to pull the info up on the NCIC?"

"Yeah." He leaned over her and watched her work the terminal, and caught a whiff of smoke. "Doris smoking in the Center again?"

"Yes. Sorry about that, I know the smell lingers and you can't stand it, but it couldn't be helped." She finished typing in the request, hit the 'enter' key and waited for the info to come up on the screen. "Here it is. Wow! Look how many departments they have now!"

"Hmmm, quite a few. Can you tell which department this Ellison works in by his extension?"

"Probably. What is it?"

"8204."

Scanning the list of numbers, she found it. "Major Crime. That's new in the last seven years. Wonder what kind of cases they handle?"

Sean pulled his phone towards him and sat down to dial. "Probably all the hot political ones, or ones that cross areas of responsibility."

"And thefts of rare books?" Caragh enjoyed seeing that look on her husband's face.

Startled, he nodded. "Yes, this is Detective Sean McConnel from Galloway County Arkansas, can I please speak with a Detective Ellison? It's in reference to the information he put out on the NCIC about the theft of rare books. Thank you." He looked over at his wife. "Honey, can you get me a copy of the books that were taken from the Emeritus' house?" Caragh dug into the file and handed him the list. "Thanks. Detective Ellison? This is Detective Sean McConnel, I'm calling from Galloway County Arkansas in response to your information request about rare book thefts."


Caragh decided to give Sean some privacy and went looking for her overnight gear and to retrieve Sean's from the Suburban. Then she recalled that she had wanted to make her own contact with a friend back in Cascade. She sought out her backpack and the address book within, then found a private phone from which to call, placing the charge on her calling card. "Rainier Anthropology Department? Great! I'm looking for a Blair Sandburg, is he still a Teaching Fellow there? He's not? Oh, he is, is he? By chance is he in his office? Can you put me through? Oh, sorry about that, I'm Doctor Caragh Michaels-McConnel from Willow Springs College. Yes, that Caragh Michaels. Thank you, Thea."

She waited patiently as the secretary, who'd been at Rainier long enough to remember Caragh's own time there, put her through to Blair's phone. He answered without his usually flippant remark, meaning Thea hadn't told him who was on the line, after the second ring. "Blair! Mike Michaels, how've you been? That's great! I'm glad they finally decided to let you teach again and take your true thesis paper for your doctorate. Hey, I got a question for you about Burton. In all your research, did you ever run across a mention of an assistant by the name of Blackie Wilkins? You did?"


The two conversations, one to Cascade PD and the other to Rainier University went on for a while, and both McConnels were not surprised by too many of the answers they received.

Part 3

 

 

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